North Star reunites pinball and booze after decades-old ban

A new bar on St. Laurent Boulevard is bringing back a dying pastime and helping to change a borough’s laws that forbade it.

Plateau–Mont-Royal borough forbade pinball machines inside bars since the 70s

North Star co-owner Justin Evans shows his pinball skills at one of eight vintage machines at his new barcade. (CBC)

A new bar on St-Laurent Boulevard is bringing back a dying pastime and helping to change a borough's laws that forbade it.

North Star serves up drinks, food and lots of pinball machines for arcade nostalgics.

"What we really want to do is bring the game we love to the city we love," said Adam Kiesler, one of the co-founders.

Pinball machines were forbidden in bars partly because of their association with organized crime, North Star co-owner Justin Evans said. (Courtesy of Justin Evans)

"There's a black hole of pinball right now and we're trying to bring that back."

The bar, which took over the space occupied by Korova, has eight vintage pinball machines from the 50s through the 80s, all operated with the bar's own tokens. But it's also a showcase of art.

On one of the walls, a compilation reel of movie and TV scenes of pinball machines is projected.

The bar takes its name from a Montreal company: North Star Coin Machine Company, which made pinball machines in Montreal in the early 1950s.

To get the business going, Kiesler and his friend Justin Evans, both musicians, had to do some political lobbying. A bylaw in the Plateau–Mont-Royal borough from the 70s forbade pinball machines in bars.

North Star features a projection of movie scenes involving pinball machines. (Courtesy of Justin Evans)

The borough is letting the project go ahead while it makes changes to the regulations.

"There's an incredible underground community. Pinball used to be everywhere and suddenly it was nowhere," Evans said.

"It moved from bars to people's homes."

North Star, on 3908 Saint-Laurent, is open for business but the official grand opening takes place on Jan. 23. In the meantime, a ladies' pinball league is launching this week.